C = Clearing Customs and Security

Gilles and I have been fortunate to have travelled extensively over the years, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that occasional challenges have been encountered while in transit.  We’ve been delayed at Security and Customs numerous times – for a variety of reasons.

Some reasons were just silly – like last November when I was detained for 45 minutes trying to clear US Customs at Toronto airport.  I had simply acknowledged I had an apple in my backpack.

U.S._Customs_and_Border_Protection_patch

Google image

It didn’t matter that the apple was intended to be eaten in Toronto waiting for my flight, but I was made to feel like a heinous criminal … and after 45 minutes they simply took away my apple. Maybe it was just a slow day in the Customs department.

There were other delays I like to put in the category of “misunderstandings” – like the 2004 incident at the Sydney airport in Australia. Apparently nervous and agitated people will attract the attention of Security like a predator to the weak and infirm.

Australia

Misha and I at the Sydney airport. Ever notice how all airports seem to look the same?

Gilles had disappeared to find us a coffee while we waited for our flight and was gone a VERY long time.  As our departure time ticked ever closer – with Gilles still nowhere in sight – I realized that neither Misha or I had our passports or flight information. Everything was in Gilles’ hands.

You would have become agitated too … right?!  We suddenly found ourselves surrounded by 3 security agents requesting that we follow them … which really didn’t help reduce my anxiety level.  At least they were very kind and friendly while they tore apart our luggage – unlike the Apple Police at the Toronto airport.

Others reasons were just bone-headed stupid – like the time I lost my passport in the Bologna, Italy airport.  Thankfully some kind soul picked it up and turned it in.  Do you ever wonder why some people are paged over the airport intercom?  If I’m to be an example, perhaps it’s just because they are an idiot.

canada-passport

Image from canada.immigrationvisaforms.com

My all-time “favourite” incident though falls into the “Who Knew?!” category.  It occurred in 2006 on route to Disney Florida.  I set off all the radiation detectors in the US Customs area in Toronto after having had a bone scan the previous day.

I learned several new things that day – including there are radiation detectors throughout Customs and Security clearance areas! Who knew?!

Disney

2006 – Gilles and I at the Disney Marathon

Is it any wonder that when we travel now, I’m always more comfortable when we’ve provided plenty of extra time for the ‘unexpected’?

C

Thank you so much for visiting today.  Please help yourself to a cookie … today I am offering Chocolate Chip.

chocolate chip

Google image

April A to Z Challenge 2015

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in A-Z Challenge - 2015, Adventure, Family, Memories, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

97 Responses to C = Clearing Customs and Security

  1. jannatwrites says:

    You have the most interesting travel experiences! I’ve never left the US, so I haven’t dealt with customs and passports. I’d probably lose my passport! There was this trip to San Francisco we took in 2009 when the kids were 6 and 3. We were waiting in the long, winding security line (with stroller, car seats, carry ons, etc) when the 3-year-old announced very loudly that he had to poop. We were a few minutes away from getting through it and tried to shush him until we found a bathroom on the other side. No go. He dropped his pants right there. Needless to say, we left the line (quickly) and he got to go to the restroom. I heard snickers all around us, but I didn’t look up so I have no idea how many people were glad they weren’t us that day 🙂

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  2. Oh and gorgeous picture by the way. I guess that was before the race. You look too glamorous and perky for after!

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  3. Thanks for the heads up about the bone scan blip. I’m due for one. I’m not sure anyone would believe me though if I told them that’s why I’d set off all the alarms. I was once picked out by a drugs sniffer dog. I guess I didn’t look the type as they asked me if I’d been around cats the previous day which I had. They let me pass. Phew!

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  4. Alex Hurst says:

    Wow~ I was pretty shocked about the bone scan story…. I know that inject radiation to do that kind of exam, but that it stays in the body that long! Woah!

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

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  5. I sometimes think border security folks are just bored and trying to liven up their day – great stories! Although setting off the radiation alarm after a bone scan has me worried for other reasons…

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  6. Mrs. P says:

    Oh…I started with D and am working backwards to A, treats are the finale to each post…well, thank you!

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  7. Haha. Yes. Us customs and I have had pur disputes as well. I have sett of the “bomb-alarm” with my make up once and in Cusco got stuck I narcotics control being interviewed in Spanish just due to arriving early.

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  8. Wow, interesting customers stories. Who knew indeed! Because we come off a dairy farm in Australia and we frequently pop over to NZ to visit Paul’s family for anywhere from two weeks to two days we often get detailed on the farm visiting thing. The entry card back into Australia says ‘have you been on a farm in the last 30 days’. Well yes, we have in Australia. So I have to tick yes. Then we have to wait and explain that it was here at home not in NZ. Sigh. Each time this happens I think I should contact customs and suggest a slight rewording.

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  9. M-R says:

    Thank heavens ! – I don’t like chocolate chip cookies. [grin]
    I’m sorry that Mascot gave you the once-over, Joanne: next time you come Downunder, I’ll accompany you and they’ll be too scared of so grim an old woman … NOT.
    [grin]

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  10. mickscogs says:

    Apart from losing wrongly packed nail scissors or Jo’s Bowie knife, we are yet to have major hassles with Customs. Touch wood. But your advice of always allowing time is very good; and we always do.
    We recently had ironman event in Melbourne. All those cyclists wearing those cone helmets. Do they really make any difference? I saw one of them lining up at a toilet!
    BTW come to Melbourne for the best coffee ever (even though it is quite a trip for a coffee).
    Great story as always Joanne. Looking forward to D.

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    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Mick! I have lost more Swiss Army knives to the people at security than I care to admit to. Why is it so hard to remember to remove them from my purse?!!

      Personally I’ve never used an aerohelmet .. quite frankly they remind me of the cartoon Atom Ant as a kid. Gilles does though so I asked him. He says that the aerohelmet is really only effective in a head wind and at AVERAGE speeds in excess of 30-35km per hour. In other words, most people wear them only because they look cool (although I think they look goofy).

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  11. Nothing toooo crazy on this end. Only that one time I was flying back from Kenya, connecting through Heathrow (nightmare) and discovered that my flight was boarding RIGHT THAT MINUTE, 3.1 miles away and was forced to FULL ON SPRINT to the gate, only to get there in a full sweat, breathless and be pulled aside, interrogated and searched for 20 minutes while the rest of my party limped, popped nitroglycerine and hyperventilated their way straight onto the plane. I was the sacrificial lamb. With a pulled hammie.

    I also PR’d. Shit show of EPIC proportions. But totally worth it. 🙂

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  12. Sue Slaght says:

    You really have had some exciting airport encounters Joanne. Who knew about the radiation detectors? 🙂

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  13. Love this post. I always think of my grandmother when going through security – she refused to let secutity search her purse once. Told them they were out of line and inappropriate – we were surprised she did not get arrested!

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  14. You brave soul! I got pulled over for a search once in Abu Dhabi airport because I set the metal detector off! I had metal decorations on my Indian tunic! Gah! since then, no metal on self, except the belt to hold up the pants! No pretty earrings, bracelets. Nada! 🙂 Safe and quick travels to you!

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    • joannesisco says:

      Oh yes – the metal detectors! Have to love those too. I actually hold my breath when I go through them … not that I think it actually helps!!
      Safe travels to you too 🙂

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  15. My little cousin almost didn’t clear customs once because of a bag full of beanie babies. Hilarious now, not so much back then.

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    • joannesisco says:

      You just never know what kind of contraband a youngster is trying to smuggle in their beanie babies!!
      … seriously, sometimes I wonder. I know they have an important job, but ….

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  16. Radiation detectors? Holy moses! We’d make a great team in an airport. So far I’ve had my luggage searched and been interrogated about the presence of baked beans, bacon and cheddar in my hold luggage, I’ve had a heated argument with a security officer about the likelihood of me blowing up the plane with the tin of golden syrup that I was not going to leave in London, and (my favourite) explaining away the presence of a gun in my handbag to a terrified Air France official (it was Bigfoot’s toy one, confiscated days earlier and forgotten in the rubbish at the bottom of my handbag).

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    • joannesisco says:

      ohhhh – you and I would be very bad travelling companions indeed!
      I kind of feel sorry for the Air France official though. Guns do make them a little jumpy 🙂
      … and golden syrup is quite the lethal weapon in the right hands 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Toronto airport is crazy. I hadn’t traveled for years and thought I’d bring some snacks because we arrived at 3:30-ish a.m. and weren’t leaving until 6:30. I washed, peels and lovingly cut up carrots, celery and an apple. I guess the U.S. guys were looking for snacks and mine looked good. 😀 Of course they confiscated them. Ugh.

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  18. Mama Cormier says:

    Back in the 70s, my husband and I had to clear customs into the States to go camping. It was in the day when they asked you ‘where were you born?” and I replied ‘Frankfurt, Germany’. We were immediately pulled over while they tore our car apart. When they were done they told us we were cleared but first we had to repack our car. I guess they thought I looked like a German terrorist at the time.

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  19. I am with you on early, there is no need to add to the stress of travel and all you need is an over eager customs agent and all that early is gone in a flash

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  20. I had no idea last month that you were such a pro at getting pulled aside at Customs! What is it about you that attracts them do you think…..perhaps they are hoping for cookies?

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    • joannesisco says:

      With my kind of luck, I’d be arrested for trying to bribe a Customs official!! 🙂

      I guess it stands to reason that the more you travel, the more likely you’ll encounter delays along the way. In the grand scheme of things, I can’t complain but there have been some occasions that have made me scratch my head … like the apple :/

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  21. Chrys Fey says:

    Airports are so hectic and crazy. Just the thought of clearing customs has given me anxiety. haha

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  22. Oh yes, clearing customs, that’s a good one! Really, what traveler doesn’t seem agitated? What’s the line in the Doors song? Something like:
    There’s only 4 ways to get unravelled
    One is to sleep and the other is travel
    I don’t know about sleeping, but traveling is certainly most unraveling!!

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  23. Lynn says:

    Ah yes customs. Thankfully, I have never experienced any big problems. I get that these people have to be serious but some days I just want to look at them and say, “seriously dude, do you need to be so rude?” I haven’t, on the account of I don’t want to be detained & denied access. But, come on, an apple???????

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  24. lovetotrav says:

    Very interesting post. I have passed through a lot of customs but the most anxiety ridden one was from Ecuador to Peru where we had to pay off some sloth to pass through or else spend quality time in his presence. This was a border crossing on foot though. I love to travel so will have to read more of your posts now. Happy blogging, Cheryl

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    • joannesisco says:

      I believe that “today’s disaster is tomorrow’s really great story” and travelling can certainly take us out of our comfort zone and into stressful situations!!
      Your situation sounds like it was particularly unpleasant.
      Th

      Liked by 1 person

    • joannesisco says:

      I believe that “today’s disaster is tomorrow’s really great story” and travelling can certainly take us out of our comfort zone and into stressful situations!!
      Your situation sounds like it was particularly unpleasant.
      Thank you so much for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. There was still enough radiation in you to set off the alarms? EGAD! And do you cling to your passport with a death grip now? We’ve gotten through security without any incidents in our travels, but have been dumb enough to almost miss our flights twice now, because we just lost track of time during long layovers. Duh! I was hoping for cheesecake today, but chocolate chip cookies will do. COL!

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    • joannesisco says:

      Exactly! – I now know that it’s a very common occurrence after certain medical procedures. The radiation can be detected in your body for up to 3 days.
      Even though it’s common, it still results in a delay of up to an hour (yes, it’s happened more than once)

      … and yes, I’m obsessive about my passport now … and double checking the name on my tickets. That little problem caused a nice delay once at Heathrow 😦

      We’ve only missed a flight once (knock on wood) – because we were detained trying to get our bike boxes through security. This airport didn’t have xray equipment and we could just tell they had decided to be real jerks. They CAREFULLY inspected and swapped EVERY. SINGLE. LITTLE. ITEM. in those boxes. We had to fly stand-by and ended up on different flights home 😦

      It’s a wonder I ever leave home :/

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  26. Sammy D. says:

    Yeesh – a pox on those airport snafus (altho they do make for good reading and telling later) . I’m a little alarmed that the bone scan contained radiation – i always convince myself Xrays and MRIs are ‘harmless’ because I’ve had so many, but it’s hard to ignore after yours set off security alarms. That alarms me enough that I’m taking sn extra cookie for my nerves.

    PS love the photos. Keep ’em coming. 😍

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  27. Excuse me if I speak with my mouth full of cookie. Nothing kills a holiday like airport immigration. Although, my worst customs experience was a border crossing from Bulgaria into Romania. It took 8 hours. We were too scared to get off the bus so by the time we got through you can imagine we were a tad desperate for toilet facilities.
    [stuffs the rest of her third cookie in her mouth] Tgsnks fr chglut, Jwn!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Heyjude says:

    I’ll pass on the chocolate chip cookie today, thank you, as I have just devoured a hot cross bun which will go straight to my hips! You do seem to attract attention don’t you? And what on earth are you carrying in that enormous suitcase/box in Sydney?
    Apart from crossing the border into Afghanistan many years ago, I seem to have had a very quiet life with border control. Fingers firmly crossed and wood touched.
    http://wp.me/pL5Ms-cs
    Jude xx

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    • joannesisco says:

      We were in Australia for an Ironman race, so we are travelling with a bike box. Often our travels included one or more bike boxes … a royal pain in the butt.

      After having read your Afghanistan story, I recommend you and I never travel together {shudder}

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      • Heyjude says:

        A bike box! Never seen one of those. It must be a right pain to travel with. I find travelling with any luggage a pain, which is why I am getting fonder of holidays in this country where I can use my car to drive door-to-door! MUCH easier 🙂

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  29. Dare I ask? Where was Gilles all the while you were being interrogated by the nice Customs men? Or was your anxiety multiplying the time factor? It just seemed like a long time?
    Radiation emission and mineral transport across the border is a bug-a-boo for we mineral dealers. Customs security is so tight that only the tiniest particle would pass the beepers. By tiny I mean 2 mm, tops.
    However, as was your experience, medical patients routinely receive doses (SAFE, I will add) that are several orders of magnitude higher. A mineral friend’s mom was receiving treatment for a thyroid condition. He followed her around the house with his radiation detector. She was off the scale.

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    • joannesisco says:

      Ahhh – so you’ve had experience with the radiation detectors!! It came as a complete surprise to me.
      … and even though they appear to encounter this all the time with medical patients, we were still detained for upwards of an hour.

      Apparently Gilles had trouble finding coffee at the airport – strange, but that’s his story – and actually saw us being led away. He followed us with coffees in hand!

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  30. Ha, gotta love customs. We were once detained because our bags were too small; apparently if you travel for a few months with only a small backpack it’s suspicious. The funny thing is we travel light so that we don’t get hassled.

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    • joannesisco says:

      Sometimes you just can’t win!!
      I’ve discovered it’s just easier to assume I’m going to get detained for some reason or another. If I don’t, it’s a bonus 🙂

      Like

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